Tuesday 28 July 2015

Frank Bellamy, Frank Norman and Insideout

In two previous posts we looked at some of Frank Bellamy's Sunday Times Colour Magazine work on horse racing and the nuclear bomb. Today I want to look at the issue dated 16th November 1969. The title of the double page spread is "Playwright's Progress" by Frank Norman. The contents page titles it "Playwright's Progress: three frustrating years in the life of a play and the man trying to get it produced". Bellamy referred to it as his "Royal Court" piece in the Dez Skinn/ Dave Gibbon interview.

The issue's cover features Carol Lynley, actress, posing for the feature "Playground of the stars: Malibu Beach", the colour magazine using its colour features well!

Cover showing Carol Lynley
We want to concentrate on Frank Norman's article which begins with the two page spread by Frank Bellamy. I thought the contracts must have been photographed and inserted into blank spaces left by the artist, but the original art - I've seen a scan of it - has all the letters and contracts on it! This piece features portraits of various theatre creative people such as Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Peter Hall, Lindsay Anderson, William Gaskill, John Boulton and Joan Littlewood. Can you spot any others such as the woman with Anderson or Tynan's dinner guests? And are we supposed to see Anderson directing Norman to "build up the part of the assistant governor"? This is odd as Ken Campbell directed the play and portraits of him online don't match in my opinion and it looks more like Anderson (whose credits do not include Insideout) but who was at the Royal Court at that time.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 pp54-55
John Frank Norman - to give him his full name - had a biography on the now expired website The Goldonian which included his Dr. Barnardo's record, which I have edited down here:

JOHN FRANK NORMAN. (Illegitimate) Admitted 24.3.I937.
BORN: 9.6.I930 at I55 Whiteladies Road, Bristol.
BAPTIZED: C.of E. No particulars. Mother C.of E.
LAST SIX MONTHS ADDRESS: c/o Mrs A. Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea.
LAST SCHOOL ATTENDED: Barnes Private School, Church Road, Barnes.


When our officer called, the conditions in applicants home were not at all good, and it was reported that John should not be allowed to remain there a day longer than necessary. John is a weak-looking child, and mentally backward, but he has never had a chance, being pushed about from pillar to post. At school he was said to be quite docile and friendly. The putative father should be persuaded to contribute regularly towards John's maintenance.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.54
The biography on the defunct site has been adapted in the Wikipedia page. In 1957 aged 27 Frank Norman had started writing what was to become one of his best known books Bang to Rights. Within a year of his release from prison (the topic of his autobiographical work), he was published in Encounter magazine  - a 10,000 word extract from his prison memoir. Championed at first by the editor of the magazine Stephen Spender, and subsequently by Raymond Chandler who wrote the foreword to Bang to Rights, The book took two years to write and be published. Frank Norman is perhaps more famous for his work with Lionel Bart creating the musical "Fings Ain't wot they used t'be". Peter Roberts, writing about the musical for "Plays and Players" magazine (March 1960) states:

There is no glossary of terms used by Mr. Norman's low-life characters, which I would have thought indispensable to all except those who have either recently returned from one of Her Majesty's prisons or who have just read an account of the life lead therein in one of Mr. Norman's two books advertised in the same programme

Insideout which is the play written about in this Sunday Times article, is a prison play about Tommie White on his first term in prison and how prison does little to change his ways when he is later released. Norman felt strongly about the topic of prison, writing a letter to the Times about overcrowding (Frank Norman. "Overcrowded Prisons." Times [London, England] 9 Dec. 1969). On Saturday 20 December 1969 the last advert appears stating the play, Insideout directed by Ken Campbell is running for its last week.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.54 - Contract

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.55
The original Sloane Square playhouse the "Royal Court Theatre" stood on the opposite side of the square to the current one. The original was flattened in a road widening scheme. The new theatre staged ten of George Bernard Shaw's plays between 1904 and 1907 and became a cinema in 1932 and remained derelict after the bombings of the Second World War until 1952. Under the artistic director George Devine, the company produced controversial new plays from John Osborne ("Look back in anger" is behind Bill Gaskill in Bellamy's illustration on page 55!), and Arnold Wesker.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.55 - Peter Hall rejection letter
Frank Norman states at the end of his piece, "Insideout opens on November 26 and runs for four weeks" and as an interesting addition, Bellamy was obviously not shown the poster that would be used as he invents his own form of lettering as the poster in the last panel. If you want to read the complete text of the play, it apparently appears in full in "Plays and Players" magazine February 1970. I wonder if Bellamy got to see the play? He was paid £175 for his work so could easily afford a ticket! And I also wonder whether anyone sued - although I did search I couldn't find any evidence!


Bill Storie said...

Another great entry Norman - thanks once again!!! Looks like FB may have had a struggle with the likenesses here - no internet in those days of course but I reckon Frank may have been given some rather poor reference shots by the newspaper so he had to do the best he could. The second last frame is definitely meant to be Anderson I reckon – the panel-to-panel continuity would certainly suggest so - and although the hairstyle is different to that in the preceding frame, media shots from that time show that Anderson did change from the "swept back and suave" look as per the first panel of him to a more severe "prison cut" as per second panel. The only thing is that his hair is swept the wrong way in the second frame but that was a common problem for editors working with negatives back in the day wasn't it? (lost count of the number of times Star Trek PR shots in the 70's showed the insignia on the wrong side lol!!). The facial features are consistent if not (imho) 100% accurate but the clothing is also consistent from panel to panel so I'd say 99.9% sure it's Anderson. That said, Anderson was the artistic director at the Royal Court so he may have brought in Ken as his choice of director for that one play - Ken was of course very much the hot young dude in those days and beginning to get noticed but I don't think that, as director, he'd be asking for changes in the script - ? However, look at the second man in the final panel – doesn't he look like a young Ken??? Could also be Norman himself of course but….hmmmmmm I dunno. I'd say Ken.
One of the women – at the party with Tynan - is Princess Margaret I reckon – they were great buddies apparently although she could also be Joan Plowright for similar reasons. The woman with Anderson looks like a young Maggie Smith. Can't recall off-hand whether she worked with Anderson but I'm reasonably sure they were personal friends around that time. LOVE Anderson's films!!!!
No guesses on the other people I'm afraid – maybe just space-fillers to ensure it didn't look like Tynan was having secret Soho meetings with Margaret lol!!!!!
Talking about Ken Campbell – MAN he was such an overlooked genius!! Did you know he could have been Doctor Who after Colin Baker went? Producers reckoned he was just too intense for the part but strangely enough his buddy Sylvester got the job by basically doing an impression of Ken!! Funny how things go innit?
I've recently been talking to Ken's daughter Daisy (Hail Eris!!) asking for her permission to use a likeness of Ken in a proposed strip based on the Illuminatus books (which she is also working on as a series of plays “Cosmic Trigger”) and she was great about it, saying he would have loved to be in a comic strip. I have him playing God btw – but NOT the sort of God you might expect – If you have ever read the Illuminatus trilogy you'll know what that means haha!! If not….well I can give you a few pointers but beware – you risk having your perceptions seriously altered!!!! It's strange with a capital S!!!!!
Take care bud!!
ps – re Mike Noble I was looking through some old correspondence with him and noticed the attributed “Piggy Press” entry in the Wiki page is actually a magazine for junior Nat West bank savers called “Our World”. Mike did a full colour strip on the back page but no idea how many issues – problem is that I just can't find any info on the net apart from a brief mention in passing – certainly no copies of the mag to be found so if you have any contacts in that area….?

Norman Boyd said...

Great to hear from you Bill. I'll add here if anyone has a copy of the Mike Noble strip Bill mentions we would both love to see it. Thanks a lot for your thoughts Bill and let me know if and when your adaptation hits the world!